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This Book Will Save Your Life Hardcover – April 20, 2006

4 out of 5 stars 88 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The journey from isolation to connection in a semiapocalyptic Los Angeles is the subject of this blithely redemptive new novel by Homes (Things You Should Know). Richard Novak is a day-trader wealthy enough to employ a housecleaner, nutritionist, decorator and personal trainer, but after he's taken to the hospital with a panic attack he realizes he has no one to call. Determined to change his life, but also stalked by strange circumstances (e.g., a sinkhole opens in his lawn), Richard makes extravagant gestures of goodwill toward various acquaintances, relatives and strangers. By the time his misguided altruistic adventures have become fodder for late-night TV jokes, Ben, the son he abandoned years ago in a divorce, arrives in town. Richard's tenuous and fraught reconnection with Ben is at the heart of his reclamation, but when it is complete the city of L.A. itself collapses, à la Mike Davis's City of Quartz. Homes's stale cultural critique feels deliberate. She gradually undoes the ordered precision of Richard's Bobo paradise, and literally leaves him floating serenely on his kitchen tabletop in an "it's all good" sort of daze. But the cool distance she keeps from Richard's struggle, and the banal terms in which she articulates it, leave one with a much darker sense of the possibilities for being saved. (Apr.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Bookmarks Magazine

Let's start with the good news for fans of A. M. Homes (Music for Torching; The Safety of Objects): it's not all bad. A few critics praised Homes's convincing characters, emotional immediacy, deadpan dialogue, and expert skewering of modern L.A. The San Francisco Chronicle even compared Homes to Kurt Vonnegut (and Richard to Billy Pilgrim). Unfortunately, negative reviews prevailed. Critics described the characters, plot, and onerous moral about the prisons of our own making as cartoonish, clichéd, and tired. The Washington Post sums up the sentiment: "If you're as isolated and disconnected as Richard, you'll find the details here surprising and hilarious, but otherwise, it's yesterday's news."<BR>Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Viking Adult; First Edition edition (April 20, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0670034932
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670034932
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1.3 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (88 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,306,580 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
A friend who also has read this book said it was Cheever as if written by Bill Hicks: savage, funny assault on suburban life. (If he stole that line from someone else then he's now double damned.)

Still, it may not be as cynical and savage as Bill Hicks would have it. Hicks wanted LA to fall in the ocean so he could live oceanside in Arizona Bay. Though that does come close to happening here, no one is laughing manically about it. In fact, there are no villains in This Book Will Save Your Life. (At least not among the main characters). There is no one out to destroy another person to make their own life better, and there is no one who cares nothing about other people.

There is however an abundance of surreality that does not seem far removed from life in Los Angeles. The possiblity that a saber-tooth tiger is loose somewhere in the Hollywood Hills doesn't seem as far-fetched as it could, when coupled with the rest of the book's car wrecks, kidnappings, artisan donuts and kindness of strangers.

It's a book about helping other people, trying not to be selfish, and seeing what's going on around you. And despite my decription and the book's title, it's not mushy feel-goody pablum. It is not chicken soup for anyone's soul. It's a good read though.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This chapterless marathon through one mans isolated existance in modern Los Angeles is brimming with optimism and hope. Richard Novak is a wealthy day trader living in the Hollywood Hills with a sink hole in his back yard, and a famous actor next door. When he calls 911 while experiencing what he believes is a soon to be fatal heart attack, the course of his life radically begins to change. For me, the book was almost fable like in it's telling with events transpiring that are both fantastic and nearly unbelievable. Yet the underlying message of making a simple connection with your fellow man sustains successfully without slipping into Hallmark sentimentality. On a side note, being an Angelino, the book captures the city and it's inhabitants with razor sharp precision.
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Format: Paperback
This book belongs to a wider and worn out end of the century postmodern literature.
The plot is full of generally known situations, such as nutrition obsessed wealthy people, often ridiculous. The characters are interesting but numerous and sometimes irrelevant to the story.
I also found the book poorly balanced, the first part is nearly insignificant. The slightly humorous book has its climax towards the end.
Often the narration is tasteless, a bit thick and lacks originality.
However, this book is well written and succeeds to deliver a message of redemption and change.
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Format: Hardcover
I have always been a big fan of Homes writing. It's funny and sly and filled with the unexpected. She is wildly satirical and her renditions of modern life are right on the mark and, despite the characters' numerous oddities, very believable.

So what happened here? I liked "This Book" but not as much as I have liked her writing in the past and not nearly as much as I wanted to. There were some brilliant moments, especially in the first hundred pages. But it seemed tamer that anything Homes has written in the past, like a TV version of the A.M. Homes I like so much. I felt she cleaned things up so that it would be accessible to a wider audience, which left me feeling like I was reading Homes Lite. Even the title set me off somewhat, since I was constantly changing my mind while reading the novel wondering if Homes seriously meant it or whether it was goofing on itself. There was not nearly enough of the ironic, sarcastic rule breaking Homes present in this book, so I kept thinking, Homes must actually mean that she wants people to think this book will change their life or her publisher did. Don't get me wrong, it is enjoyable and fun, but there is much less of an edge than you may be used to.

The novel was a parabola, with the last half being pulled earthward by gravity. I have no idea why Homes decided not to slash some of the later passages. It would have been a leaner, meaner novel, with some of the old ambiguity we all loved so much. The desire to resolve all the sub plots is not a bad thing, nothing wrong with it. It's just not the A.M. Homes I know. I was hoping for more with less.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The title might be a bit presumptuous, but this novel, in the most captivating way, makes you think about stopping to smell the roses. In a way, it does throw out a lifeline. The book is charming, funny, outrageous, and just might be a long, modern day parable for good living.

When Richard feels incredible, real pain, he seems to "wake up" from his repetitive, meaningless life. By opening up, he allows himself to meet, and befriend, a cast of intriguing, genuine, although slightly eccentric, characters. From the donut maker, the crying housewife, the movie star, and my favorite, Nic the writer, Richard's eyes are opened to life as it could be, maybe should be. As Richard starts remembering who he is, and what really matters, the most incredible things are going on around him.

I tried to read this book straight through, although my life kept getting in the way (school, sleeping, family) but believe me, once I started, I didn't want to put it down. Now I'm going to lay it down, recommend it to my friends, and go love on my cat, call my kids, and do something nice for someone.
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